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Bernie Elzer III, the visionary CEO of Grafika Print and scion of its illustrious third-generation leadership, is renowned for his strategic acumen in navigating the competitive landscape of the volume, industrialized print market. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Elzer meticulously evaluates each equipment purchase to ensure Grafika Print maintains its position at the pinnacle of the industry. Recently, the company made headlines with the acquisition of a Koenig & Bauer Rapida 106-X, hailed as one of the nation’s most advanced presses. Elzer views this addition as pivotal, anchoring his vision to exponentially grow packaging volume while prudently managing the company’s workforce, which currently stands at 125 employees.

Recognizing the transformative potential of technology in shaping the future of print, Elzer champions the integration of AI in equipment procurement. Emphasizing the importance of adaptability in an evolving industry landscape, he seeks out a new breed of professionals – “print technologists of the future” – individuals adept at leveraging advanced press technologies to maintain quality standards and drive productivity. With Elzer’s leadership at the helm, Grafika Print remains poised to navigate the challenges of industry evolution, blending innovation with tradition to meet the diverse needs of its discerning clientele.

Nathan Elzer is a skilled professional with a diverse background in sales analytics, business operations, and print manufacturing. Currently, he serves as Project Manager at Grafika Print, demonstrating proficiency in overseeing projects efficiently. Based in Sinking Spring, PA, Nathan brings valuable experience from previous roles, including as a Distribution and Manufacturing Sales Analyst at St. Onge Company. He began his journey with an internship at Grafika Print, where he played a crucial role in analyzing inventories and identifying cost-saving opportunities. Nathan’s collegiate experience at the University of Pittsburgh taught him valuable lessons in time management, teamwork, and community engagement. With integrity, perseverance, and a passion for improvement, Nathan exemplifies leadership in every aspect of his work.

Grafika is a leading print and packaging provider in North America, dedicated to pushing technological boundaries while prioritizing exceptional customer satisfaction. With a commitment to fostering trust and respect, Grafika offers a vast array of printing solutions supported by a rich history and forward-thinking investments, ensuring longevity and success in the industry. Beyond ink on paper, Grafika’s legacy lies in its unwavering dedication to innovation and customer-centric service.

Chris Santomassimo: Welcome back to the Think Factory podcast. I’m Chris Santomassimo from OGC Solutions. And we power the Think Factory podcast and I’m actually on site today. I’m excited to be at Grafika Print in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania with really the the fourth, the third and the fourth generation of the company. So I’m with Bernie Elzer, the president CEO, and Nathan Elzer, who’s the integration specialist here at the company. So welcome to the podcast.

Bernie and Nathan Elzer: Hey, thanks for coming in and seeing us.

Chris Santomassimo: It was fantastic. I wish people that listened to the podcast could really come and see a facility like yours. I mean, soon as I walked in, I told you, Look, I can we get it off the floor? It’s that kind of facility and you’re all about efficiency, process, attitude in a good way. Brand I mean, all of those things. And it’s really evident from your facility for sure.

Bernie and Nathan Elzer: Well, thanks. The ultimate compliment of what we’re trying to achieve here. You know, I’ve been doing this my whole life. We’re 60 years right now in business, three generations as president. And now Nathan is on board as our fourth generation. And it’s really been part of even my grandfather and my father. I don’t know if it’s the German heritage, but they’ve always been very clean and organized in how they performed or produced regardless of the size. You know, the company was started with $500 on a ping pong table in the basement and moved out of that and moved into many different facilities in my childhood. And they were that’s just a core trait of of good manufacturing practices, keeping it clean and safe work environment for your employees, one that’s motivating to come to work, too. But it’s also very important when our customers come here and they go on plant tours and have the experience like you had that were different than most printing companies. And I want them to feel it and see it. Not not everything comes down to to the quoted price sometimes the differences in who you are.

Chris Santomassimo: Well, I tell you what, you don’t even you know, you’re in a print facility, but it doesn’t even smell like a print facility, if you know what I mean. You know, it’s it’s that it’s that precise in terms of the appearance and the way it’s structured. And, I mean, as I told you, you guys light up when you’re on the floor just about how excited you are about what you do for customers every day. Maybe that’s a good Segway to just introducing the company a little bit and to talk about those generational changes and how you got to be where you are today.

Bernie and Nathan Elzer: Yeah, I you know, I’m very grateful and thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to work with my grandfather and my father and have them pass the torch on to me, so to speak. Even though I had to buy the business from my dad, it wasn’t passed on. I had to buy it and I’m still paying those bills. But it’s an honor to be, you know, the next generation. And we’ve we have all adapted to the era that we were presidents with. There’s just there’s not one secret formula for this other than taking the variables that are in front of you at the time, whether it’s economy or whether it’s technology, whatever it is, and figuring a way out to to outpace the competition and and be a good supplier to your customers. So it started on ping pong table. Really what the first evolution that that really caused the growth was the need for a customer of ours in the area that needed a battery label that could resist car battery acid back in the sixties. And my grandfather and dad took on that challenge as they were they were a screen printer at the time, printing signs for store windows. But they came up with a screen printed label that was printed on a clear material in reverse behind the material and then laminated it. And adhesive layer sandwiching the printing between the clear substrate and the adhesive layer. And that patent made them the number one producer of battery labels, and that catapulted the growth. They couldn’t really afford to pay for all the growth, so they wound up selling the business to VF Corporation fast forwarding in 1978. And during those years we had a lot of growth being owned by a Fortune 500 company. Those were my teenage years, and a lot of technology was interjected during those years as they acquired apparel companies, meaning VF Corporation, their print facilities, The Wrangler print facility was brought in to Grafika. The lead jeans print facility was brought into Grafika and that’s where we picked up flex. So an offset printing and rotary letter press and those four print mediums combined with our screen printing at the time. That diversity served us very well. And today we still have four print mediums, which is, I think, an important part of of who we were and who we are. In 1990, my dad had the opportunity to buy the company back from VF Corporation and build a building we’re in today and Sinking Spring.

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